There are three main kinds of hunting hounds: Sighthounds, scent hounds and lurchers.
Sighthounds, like the Whippet, have amazing eyesight and are extremely fast runners. Their way of hunting is called ‘coursing’. They see their prey – often from a huge distance – then they stalk, chase and kill it. These dogs are athletic, fast, very quiet and extremely independent. They are very affectionate and loyal to their owners and are good with small children. They make hopeless guard dogs as they’re so trusting!
Scent hounds, as you would imagine, use their sense of smell for hunting. Beagles, Basset Hounds and the American Coonhound all use their noses to track the prey. They very often hunt in packs and can chase game for a very long way before cornering it or killing it. These dogs have characteristic booming barks and soulful expressions.
Lurchers are primarily some kind of sighthound bred with a working dog.
Hunters take a gun dog along with them to bring back whatever has been shot. Retrievers are very good at remembering where prey has fallen and love to retrieve ducks or geese that have been shot and landed in water. A typical gun dog is very well trained and can follow commands from a long distance away. They are renowned for their ‘soft mouths’ which means that they don’t leave a mark on the game that they have retrieved.
Spaniels are excellent for finding game and flushing it out of any hiding place. They are also greats swimmers, good family dogs and fiercely loyal.
Pointers are also loyal. They’re happy and affectionate dogs. Although they are bred to hunt, they make great pets as long as they get sufficient exercise. When they are hunting, they literally point! They find the game and then stop dead, letting the hunter know where it is. Once they are commanded, they flush the prey out for the hunter to shoot. Setters are good pointers.
One of the most famous pointers was Judy, a ship’s dog during the Second World War. Her special skill was to point where Japanese planes were coming from – long before any of the humans on board could even hear their engines! Judy was awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross (the Dickin Medal) in 1946.
Most of the animals that terriers help to hunt for are pests. For example, Jack Russells go after ground hogs and foxes in America and Terriers hunt badgers in the UK (legally and illegally!). Hunters who work with these dogs are called terriermen.
These are used in a similar way to terriers but the game that they hunt is usually larger, such as boars, raccoons and even cougars. Staffordshire Terriers and any other kind of hunting dog are often bred together to produce hunting curs.